Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Talking About the Real Stuff

Today after eating together as a family, my son announced that flies are really agnostic and that's why he doesn't like them.  What?  My husband looked at me and then B, "Do you mean obnoxious?" 

"Yeah, abnosxious."

He went off running and playing in the yard, "I wonder where he heard agnostic?"

My husband confessed, "Oh, we were discussing that last night."

Then later that night the boys were fighting over the new toothbrushes.  One was Star Wars, the other Batman.  They both wanted the Star Wars one.  So I tried to make the Batman  one more appealing, "You guys know that a new Batman movie just came out."

B added, "Yeah, that is the one where the guy came in a killed and shot all those people.  Why did he do that?"

Apparently my son had read some of the newspaper that morning...with his dad.

My husband and I have always leaned toward not "protecting" our kids, but just telling them the truth and reality of their world.  (This is how we treated Hans' mom's cancer and it opened us up to practicing prayer and faith.) Yet, the latest discoveries surprised me a bit.  Part of me didn't want my sons to fear movie theaters.  That one seemed to come a little too close to their reality. (I was actually fine with the agnostic concept.)

But I trust my husband.  I've heard his conversations.  He's quite good.  He frames things well, asks good questions, and paints age-appropriate truth for my boys.

I remember sharing with a group of readers at one of my book talk events for Just Moms, that I had shared with my sons about Osama bin Laden when he had been captured.

Someone from the audience was looking for the perfect answer that she could then take back and have with her children, "And how did you handle that conversation?"

I didn't really have a good answer, "I don't know.  I guess I just told them who he was and why our country was happy to have captured him.  The boys didn't say much.  They listened and then we moved on with our breakfast."

But I'm finding that these little conversations come back around.  The boys listen and ask and then the Holy Spirit works.

The other day Coen was asking about God's power and what makes him so powerful.  He, being a boy, loves the idea of super powers.  He also loves the idea of ultimate good and ultimate bad.  Black and white.  We were having a good conversation. I was doing most of the listening.  Then he pointed to his heart, "But this, this love is the most powerful."

And so I trudge on and I hope that in my honesty as a mom and a person who is grappling with life, the good and the bad, that my sons will ultimately see a woman and a community who desire a relationship with an all-loving and all-powerful God and see a transformation in me that gives them the confidence to know there must be a God...and that somewhere in this messy earth that Love does win.

And I guess that is why we continue to share the good, the bad, and the ugly with our kids.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Higher Ground...and Other Thoughts on Christian Films

First of all I need to clarify that Higher Ground is not a Christian movie.  Not like Fireproof or other films published by Christians and for Christians.  Higher Ground is adapted from a spiritual memoir by Carolyn Briggs entitled, This Dark World.  This movie was made, not by Christian and not just for Christians, (as far as I know) but it looks at faith and tells an honest story...this is why I liked it.

I never like Christian movies, which is hard since I am a Christian, and I have to nod and smile while my friends glow after viewing one.  They always say, "Now, I know that most Christian movies are poorly acted or not very well made, but  not this one.  This one was so good."  Of course, when I view it I cringe and squirm and want to hide under the covers.  When I say things like, "Really, yeah, it made me uncomfortable."  Often my friends look at me with shock and total disbelief, and I feel judged so I just keep my opinions to myself.  (Until they read this blog post...oops.  Yes, I didn't like Courageous either.)

After viewing Higher Ground, and liking it, I  finally concluded what I like and don't like about movies regarding faith.  I like honesty.  I like truth.  There are so many true stories waiting to be told that just happen to be about people of faith.  I don't like fictional Christian movies that play it safe to get the G rating having to keep too many factions happy and not offended.  Nothing is worse than a staged sermon embedded into a dramatic film.

So, don't watch Higher Ground if you are easily offended.  Watch Higher Ground if you want to know how many of your Christian friends feel and have felt as their faith ebbs and flows.

Here is the blurb about this film found on the Netflix jacket, "Vera Farmiga stars in and directs this sensitive and searching chronicle describing a woman's lifetime journey of faith...one that initially leads her to join a fundamentalist sect and then leave it again years later.  The film looks deeply into human doubt and certainty, and the challenge of trying to match our lives with our spiritual beliefs."

Yes, much of what they depicted could be taken as making fun of religion, but when you feel like you are on the outside much of what happens in churches feels awkward and strange.  When someone is having a "spiritual moment" and you are not, you often feel like you are watching something uncomfortable...at least I do.  So watching many of the scenes in the film still made me want to hide under some covers, but not because I was a Christian watching other Christians put a movie together, but because I was watching those on the outside summarize what we on the "inside" look like to them.

Not only did I identify with the main character in her search for God, but I also was raised in the church during the same era as she began her spiritual journey.  I'm not sure the 70's, 80's, and 90's were the church's best.  There were a lot of growing pains as the American church responded to the Holiness Movement and then the Jesus 70's.  The scenes of Bible studies and prayer meetings were all scenarios I have experienced.  Chastisement by the "older" women mentoring the main character in her role as a submissive woman were identical to experiences I had growing up.  Carolyn Briggs simply told her story, and I simply listened and cringed and laughed and related. 

Part of me is nervous to even post this.  Nervous that people will misunderstand me, judge me.  But there is this hope in me that believes that if I am honest about my relationship with God and church then just maybe it will be exactly what someone else needs to hear as they make sense of their spiritual journey. 

My husband and I went on a 14 mile hike the other day, so there was plenty of time to discuss, and we spent a good portion of it talking about church and what makes us keep coming back, makes us want it for our family.  If we weren't committed in our resolve to make church part of our lives, it would be easy to release it and leave it behind.  I think we concluded that our parents modeled that there was something authentic and good and necessary in church.  Our parents modeled grace toward the church.  We all desire grace from the church, but we often forget to extend that grace to this place that has never claimed to be perfect.  (Some do and that is a problem.) We place great value in having relationships with others who are seeking truth in God.  And we are hoping that we can do life with people who are honest with us and honest with themselves and their spiritual memoirs.

So, because of that I would highly recommend Higher Ground and would love to hear your thoughts on it.